Taipei, May 17 (CNA) Lawmakers across party lines touted Taiwan's passage of a same-sex marriage bill Friday, making it the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage, as an important milestone in the nation's human rights history.
"I believe this day will go down in Taiwan's human rights history, along with all of your courage and persistence," said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), who in 2006 was Taiwan's first lawmaker to propose a bill seeking to legalize same-sex marriage.
Hsiao said because of the spread of twisted information, many gay individuals in Taiwan have faced suppression, causing them to suffer from depression and repress who they really are.
"The passage of the bill finally allows them to see the sun and the rainbow and enjoy the right to start a family like everyone else in Taiwan," Hsiao said, though she believed more effort will need to be made to facilitate social dialogue and communication on the issue.
Under the act passed Friday, titled Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748, two persons of the same gender, aged 18 or older, will be able to register a marriage starting May 24, with at least two witnesses signing the registration document.
Either partner in the marriage will be allowed to adopt the biological children of the other, the law states.
DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), another long-time proponent of marriage equality, said the bill's passage has created another miracle for Taiwan.
"Now in addition to an economic miracle and political miracle, we have created a human rights miracle," Yu said, thanking lawmakers from the DPP and other parties for voting for the bill Friday.
Dismissing public concerns that the bill's passage was rushed, Yu said a half century has passed since a lesbian couple first attempted to register for marriage at a local household administration in 1958.
She also appealed to opponents of gay marriage, reassuring them that the things they have feared will not happen.
"One week from today, you will realize that the sun still comes up in the east and that the things you have feared do not even exist," she said.
Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁), who was one of the few KMT lawmakers who voted in support of key articles in the bill, said he was proud to have helped leave a "voice of diversity" in the KMT's history.
He said that while he understood that many KMT supporters do not favor same-sex marriage, they must continue to open up their minds as the nation marches forward.
New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) said he was honored to have played a part in such a historic moment for Taiwan, but noted that society will not stop being inundated with twisted information simply because same-sex marriage has become legal.
"Remarks made by several lawmakers here today show that the road ahead remains bumpy," he said. "But worry not, my gay friends ... as it is the job of lawmakers to continue to communicate with society and make sure that discrimination will one day cease to exist in Taiwan."
There were, however, voices of dissent.
KMT Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said he worried that the legislation that passed Friday was not the end of a dispute but the beginning of other problems.
"When the gavel struck, were social disputes settled? Have people from different organizations and ethnic groups and with different beliefs communicated well with each other on the issue?" Chiang asked.
People First Party caucus whip Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) argued that the same-sex marriage issue has led the society down a path of confrontation.
No law has so far been proposed to address many highly controversial issues, such as euthanasia, abortion, surrogate mothers and the abolition of the death penalty, and the reason given is that Taiwanese society is not yet mature enough to deal with them, Lee said.
As with those issues, same-sex marriage is still highly controversial in Taiwan, but the Legislative Yuan rushed to pass a new law on the issue, violating the results of a referendum last Nov. 24 that demonstrate new public opinion, he said.
Passage of the bill will only lead to another round of division and confrontation, he said.